What is joy? While numerous definitions appear at Dictionary.com, I focus here on two: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; the expression or display of glad feeling. From these definitions, I propose that experiencing joy in life comes from distilling the root of gladness. When I experience gladness, it most commonly comes from a place of gratefulness and gratitude. Thus, try doing these three things to experience joy:
1. Reflect on what you’re thankful for. When was the last time you sat down and noticed the good things going on in your life? (This exercise is not meant to negate difficult feelings and experiences.) Ask yourself to finish the statement “I am thankful for…” and write the answers down. You might be surprised by what comes up.
2. Pause in your day to see the world around you. On my morning walk to work, sometimes I stop in my tracks when I see something notable: a cardinal in a tree, a spider spinning a complex web, or a beautiful sky full of colors. Sometimes, exercising gratefulness is seeing the beauty found in nature, being in awe of your surroundings, and reflecting on what you’re noticing here and now.
3. Thank someone. Did someone make you a good cup of coffee this morning? Did you see someone do a good job on their presentation? Did someone let you pass them on the highway? Regardless of the act of kindness, express thanks. Maybe it’s simply smiling at someone you see on your commute. When you do that, gratitude is not only shown, it is fostered in the environment around you.
Try these activities and see how your outlook on life shifts. A little joy-infused gratefulness can go a long way.
Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.